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To George Washington from Brigadier General John Armstrong, 22 February 1777

From Brigadier General John Armstrong

Carlisle [Pa.] 22d Feby 1777

Dear General

On my return from Baltimore & travelling the West⟨ern⟩ part of the County of York, I am favoured with your Excellencys Letter of the 19th Ulto1—and Sorry to find that so few of the Pennsylvania Militia who were actually on foot ever reached to head Quarters & also for the Short Stay of those who did—when I spoke of 20,000 it was including the bones of the Old Army & her few new recruits. The back parts more particularly of Pennsylvania I think must have a short respite before they are called again dangerous as it is, lest a temporary Chasm which I pungently dread shou’d happen in your Army. General Buchanans Militia Brigade in the invirons of Baltimore whom I expected wou’d have suddenly gone to you, we hear are for some ill judged reason Stoped at present2—perhaps another demand from you for a respectable number of the Militia of that State may have a good effect—they shou’d bring as many Arms of their Own or their fellows as they can & not depend so much on being equip’d at Philada The Maryland Assembly I doubt has not yet made a Militia Law, but from the number of blacks in that State ’tis but natural to expect their militia might be easier spared from the Spring labour than those of Other States nearer to you—I hope Congress has Sent (as was urged) for the Enlisted troops of N. Carolina—The Excereble practice led on as it was by ignorance & Averice at Once to impoverish Starve & poison the Troops by Distilling every thing up into Whiskey, I hope will be Suddenly Stoped—this has been Opened to Congress & I have Since wrote on the apparent consequences of it to the Council of Safety for this State as requiring more dispatch than perhaps the Assembly can give it, but of this the Council will best judge. What do you think of a Magazine some eight or Ten miles from Wilmington, as a watchful eye on Delaware may soon be requisite? Some person must be appointed (perhaps Mr Blain has) to collect at Carlisle the provisions & Forrage from this County there will be little found but wheat or flour.3 The four Captains Commissions yr Excellency has been pleas’d to put in my power & for which I thank you I shall dispose of as well as I can, but shall not now be able to come quite up to yr mark the best being chiefly gone—Some have exterior appearances, yet far from the whole thing. I hope a very few days will provide me with a few necessarys when I intend going immediately to you, only taking in the way the militia in the lower part of York County & the Western part of Chester County which extends to Sasquehana but perhaps not all these being very desirous to see you.

I cannot much regret Doctor Armstrongs having missed a Troop of Horse however he might have Suited it, as some respectable place in a Hospital appears to be more expedient—this I ought to have mentioned at Congress on whom he has a natural & just demand for the Charlestown disappointment but forgot it, and I know not how this arrangement stands nor who to write to—He has lately declined Several applications for Settlement on the principle of prefering the publick Service. The Younger I shall again take with me to Camp—He was faulty in leaving it without waiting on you but the loss of his Patron & Cloaths forced him off for repairs intending not to come farther than where Genl Mercer lay.4 Inclosed I send you Coll Buchanans Plan for procuring provisions &c. this he means shou’d be the practice in every State where purchases for the Army are to be made. Query whether any of those Officers shou’d be paid otherwise than by a Salary? Except I hope common purchasers who are to buy at Market-towns under the limitation of the Agent.5 I am with great truth Your Excellencys Most Obdt humbl. Servt

John Armstrong

P:S: I cannot learn that progress in the recruiting Service which is necessary & somewhat fear the industry of young Officers in this most important point, but hope it is otherwise in Some places—’twere to be wished the Colls & other field Officers paid the highest attention to this branch of Service conscious as I am that such has been yr Orders to them nor ought they to take (for I have Seen a few[)] such men that have no vestige of the Soldier in their appearance.

ALS, DLC:GW. The material in angle brackets is mutilated. The address reads in part “Favour’d by Doctor [William] Magaw.”

1This letter has not been found.

2Andrew Buchanan (1734–1786), a prominent Baltimore County merchant and landowner, was in 1774 and 1775 captain of the 1st Company of Baltimore County militia and a member of the Baltimore committee of observation. Buchanan was promoted to brigadier general on 6 Jan. 1776 and placed in command of the state’s middle military district. From 1776 to 1781 he served in the Maryland general assembly.

3Ephraim Blaine (1741–1804), who was a member of the Carlisle committee of correspondence in 1774, had been a commissary in the 2d Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment during the French and Indian War. He raised a regiment of Pennsylvania associators in 1775 and served as its lieutenant colonel until early April 1777, when he resigned to become the county lieutenant for Cumberland County. Blaine was named deputy commissary general of purchases for the Continental army on 6 Aug. 1777, and in December 1779 he was promoted to commissary general of purchases.

4Armstrong’s eldest son, James Armstrong (1749–1828), who graduated from the Medical College of Philadelphia in 1769, joined the Continental army as a surgeon in the general hospital in Virginia in 1776. Armstrong’s younger son, John Armstrong, Jr. (1758–1843), entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1774 but quit the following year to join the military expedition to Quebec. In early 1776 he enlisted in a company of Pennsylvania associators and later in the year he was commissioned a captain in Col. John Potter’s regiment of Pennsylvania militia. Armstrong become an aide-de-camp and brigade major to Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer in late 1776 and was with the general when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Princeton. From early 1777 to the end of the war Armstrong served as an aide-de-camp to Major General Gates. In March 1783 Armstrong became involved in the so-called Newburgh Conspiracy and composed the famous letters that incited unrest among officers of the Continental army. During the War of 1812 Armstrong served as a brigadier general and as secretary of war.

5William Buchanan’s undated plan for “the better and more certain victualling of the Army and guarding against the apparent unsupportable Rise of Provisions” contained six measures: “1st That a Commissary General of Provisions be appointed with a liberal Salary, whose Business it shall be to inspect recieve store and serve out all Provisions for the Army and all Posts Parties and Detachments thereof, and once a Year to render an Account to Congress of every Ration served out, with Vouchers, as though the same was to be paid for by the Ration.

“2. That One Director of Magazines and the Purchase of Provisions be appointed, who shall nominate one agent in each State where Magazines are erected, with Power to employ, at a certain Commission, any Persons of Credit willing to engage in the Purchase of these Articles, at Prices from time to time limited by the said Agent. Each Purchaser to make Return to the Agents. The Agent to the director and the director to the Commissary General monthly. The Agent to draw for his Services a Commission of [ ] Pr Ct.

“3. All Troops, armed Vessels, and export Adventures, to be victualled and supplied out of these Magazines at first Cost and Charges, On Application to and Permission of the Director and Agent.

“4. The Commissary and Director to be under the Appointment and Direction of the Commander in Chief.

“5. The Director to draw all monies for the Purchase of Provisions and render an Account thereof to Congress, with a Return of the Stores on hand at the same time that the Commissary General renders his Account of Rations served out. And that he be allowed a Commission of [ ] Pr Ct for his Services.

“6th That the article of Forage be put under a similar Regulation proceeding from the Quarter Master General” (DLC:GW). For GW’s response to Buchanan’s plan, see GW to John Armstrong, 5 Mar. 1777.

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